‘Why I Write’ (One of the Best Things We’ve Read All Week)

Orhan Pamuk

Earlier today, I happened upon these striking words from Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s 2006 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“The question we writers are asked most often, the favorite question, is, ‘Why do you write?’ I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can’t do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but—just as in a dream—I can’t quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.”

Why do you write? What drives you to keep doing this strange and wonderful thing we do? Share your reason in the Comments section below, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of the newest issue of Writer’s Digest, plus a few books from our swag stack.

Update! We dipped a hand into the random WD drawing hat, and came up with Kelsiieo’s name. Kelsiieo, we’ll be contacting you in a moment. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing your thoughts on the craft. They were truly a pleasure to read.

Zachary Petit is an award-winning journalist, and the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

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30 thoughts on “‘Why I Write’ (One of the Best Things We’ve Read All Week)

  1. jlgabel

    I write because for me, it’s the best portable outlet for creativity. I can’t lug a piano around, but I can take a notebook and a pen anywhere. Also, I write because even on the days when it’s excruciating, nothing feels better than to finish a thought or to solidify a memory on paper.

  2. Judith Joyce Poe

    Why do I write? Why do I breathe? As with all life-sustaining mechanisms, act is unconscious and automatic. I write because I am able, because I am filled with the need to express my feelings to others and to myself, because I think and therefore those thoughts are important to me. Are they important to others? Who knows? I will never know for sure though unless I write them down and read or show them to others.
    Writing is the single most personal thing I do for myself. It is the defining of those feelings and thoughts into pure language. The wind blows and the clouds move and I see them, but when they have passed I cannot share the vision with another unless I write it down. Oh yes, the camera, that capturing of real life, but the camera can only catch the picture. It can’t feel the wind on your cheek or the fog as the clouds move closer to the ground and the mist as it touches your skin. Why do I write? Because like breathing it is necessary to my survival and well being! Why do I write? I write because I must, because I desire, because I love. I write to be.
    I write to be. What does that mean? It means, to me, to be acknowledged. It means to be enjoyed. It means to enlighten others to the loves and yes, sometimes, hurts that make what I am. Why I write is different than why I do anything else. It is unique and special. A time set apart for me and me alone. A time not intruded upon by family and friends. A times used for introspection, for fantasizing, for jumping into the fray. A time used during the day, and sometimes in the middle of the night. A time for princes and kings, monsters and dragons, heroes and villains. It’s my time for wonder. A time when one becomes a child again and has a make believe life. Writing brings all these things to my fingertips and blazes them across the page. Why do I write? I write to regain childhood and all the promise that it held.

  3. Scott M

    I write because I can. I write to bring clarity to the thoughts that whirl around in my brain. I write to express love and fear and joy and pain. I write because I like to put words on a page and move them around until they’re in the right order. I write so that I can tell people the things I didn’t think to tell them in the moment I was speaking to them. I write because I can’t remember everything I see and hear and think of during the course of the day (or night). And I write because someday it might be worth reading.

  4. handyman43127

    I suppose the reason I write is as it has always been, nothing has changed, only many years have passed. I write not to smell the ink, the paper, or the pen, the distinct odor of those vanished with the replacement of the hand cranked copy machine. I write when my thought’s won’t fit into the cookie-cutter-mold we are being programmed to believe, don’t fit. I write when I use the ability to think, rather than just believe everything I’ve been told. I write when my voice is unimportant, and only the paper will hear me out. I write to validate myself as important, in some small way. I write hoping there is someone, somewhere that thinks similar to me. I write because if someday hell freezes over, and I win a Pulitzer Prize, I will not use that platform to tell you how much I hate you, or how angry I am at everybody, but instead to express thanks that I was born in a time when I was still allowed to think freely, and to put those thought’s on paper for anyone that chooses, to read.

  5. madisonAD

    I write because I love the feeling of my fingers on the keys, and that sound the spacebar makes between words – because I love the glide of pen on paper, and the moments I spend staring into nothing between thoughts.

  6. HuffmanHanni

    I write to find my voice in this world even though it is the characters who are speaking. I write because those characters, and good go they keep multiplying like Gremlins, talk to me and want me to tell their story in the hopes someone will like what they have to say. I write because for the first time in my life, I feel alive. I feel a fire in my heart that calls me to action and I hope it doesn’t get extinguished until I die. I write because other than my husband and my four-legged children, I am happy and feel loved and accepted even if it is by the characters in my head.

  7. auntyamo

    I write because I can’t help myself 😀
    6/8 months ago after dabbling in writing for years I realised that is is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.
    I’m 40 and my writing life has just started.
    So excited

  8. sefmac20

    I write for personal pride, to surprise and impress, and to give my thoughts context. I write because the written word sticks, while the spoken word tends to fade away.

  9. TheKesser

    I write for my own sanity… I write to get through the day. It’s the one place where I can control the outcome… when life seems to throw more at me than I can handle (like it has the last year and a half).
    Writing is heaven to me. I finally get to be the me that I’ve always wanted to be in real life, but fear how people are going to react.

    I write to deal with my anger too, like the article says. Somedays, anger is overwhelming in my mind and heart… I hate it.

    Writing is something that I feel I’m pretty good at and the one thing in my life that I want to get better and better at. I don’t ever want to stop writing. The day that I do that, is the day that I have lost hope.

    Writing isn’t just a hobby, or just a random interest to me. It’s life and life-giving for me. I feel truly blessed to have found something I’m so passionate about.

  10. CLKone

    Why do I write?

    Samuel Johnson once wrote “Language is the dress of thought”. I put the language “clothing” on every day as carefully as I can, for writing is the “wardrobe” I create. Some may like my “outfits” some may find them out of style, or scintillating, or subdued, but the idea of not expressing what is in me is as foreign as the idea of sitting in a very public place undressed.

    While I might consider leaving one of my characters in that predicament, I try to avoid it for myself.

    Some of my writing makes me feel like my favorite pair of jeans, while other pieces that I have created definitely put me in the suit with my hair pulled up in clip. There are times while writing, that I skim across the dance floor in an elegant gown and other times when I shake it in the tank and cutoffs.

    Sweat often accompanies my writing even when I haven’t jogged my 16,000 steps for the day. I like that sensation and the result of hours in the chair in my jams. I also like holding the fabric of a finished piece.

    I have an extensive collection of ‘jewelry’ to go with this “wardrobe” as well. Journals of ‘gems’, pages of article ‘anklets’, binders of ‘bracelets’ notebooks of ‘necklaces’, reams of ‘rings’.

    Why do I write? I prefer being dressed, I would hate to think that anyone believed that I had no thoughts!

  11. Ardent Muse

    I write for these reasons:

    1. It’s FUN
    2. It comes Naturally
    3. It’s Easier than Speaking
    4. I like to CREATE Stories, Jokes/Funny Scenarios, To Entertain
    5. People have been touched by what I write (Comforted/Humored/Enlightened/Educated)
    6. It’s one of the select things I’m Good at Doing
    7. I’ve always felt Compelled to Write

  12. SweetCaronia

    I write therefore I am. I exist completely when transferring the most profound or mundane bits of my perception from concept to concrete. When I write life begins to make sense, because I am able to make sense of life through the trickling of thought from brain to forearm, from forearm to paper.

    The slow creeping slopes of letters in ink, the hurried scribbles of a mad-woman, or the gentle pecking of keyboard, no matter what form writing takes, the very action of it is inclined to incubating every dormant hope and erecting new dreams from old memories. I write to give a name to the things felt at the height of empathy.

    Though language may be our most lofty barrier, words weave the fabric of connection. Words are the gateway to extraordinary vision. To someday articulate mine — This is why I write.

  13. Robd1313

    And So It Goes…

    You’ll travel the Worldwide & only find yourself once
    So how unique are we of a Birthrite just because???

    To Be a Cause just because you woke up in a Dream
    And feel a GOD given purpose 2 propose EYE DO BELIEVE…

    To know that you never knew & whats new has ALWAYZ been
    Time lost only revealed a secret of the wind…

    Holding on ever so tight no choice but letting go
    As moments kept on passing by the wordz “and so it goes”

    The fade was deaf to each the same nothing heard at ALL
    No thing could stop sea or sun from the spring into the fall…

    The people kept on changing yet the message remained the same
    The sky is falling, the end is near, yet Amen still came in name…

    Sum with or without food, sum with or without a HOME, sum just go 2 go,
    Somebody’s journey to GOD alone…

    The non-believer’s will read these wordz 2 say a useless rhyme
    Yet why is it we can buy a clock but still not bye our TIME…

    By Robert J Del Rio why i write…

  14. kelsiieo

    I write, because I’ve had too many ideas circulating in my head since I was probably 8-years-old. (I’m now 21). I write, because I feel accomplished once I’ve written something I can be proud of and get a personal high over. Because I am better at expressing myself through words, I write. Because I have the freedom to write whatever I want, I write.

    I write, because I want to be remembered for what I thought rather than what I looked like. I write, because I come up with new ideas and theories about life!

  15. DaynaBayna

    I write because there are days where I need the escape of the world my characters live in. That world is not necessarily better, I often put my characters through trying situations, but that world is not mine and my problems don’t live there.

    I write because I love the problem solving involved in writing a long piece of fiction. Does this scene work here or does it work better twenty pages down the line? If this character says ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, how does that change everything? Does is change at all?

    I write because it is it the one thing that provides me happiness, sadness, tears, joy, hate, and satisfaction that I control completely. I am the fate of my words.

  16. J.T. Evans

    I fear my demons will overtake my world if I don’t exorcise them and bind them to paper with ink. They must be released from my mind, but not into the world in a form in which they retain their freedom. My demons must be scourged from my mind, banished to paper, and forever shared with those brave enough to venture into my imagination. Insanity awaits me if I keep my inner issues within me. Entertainment, thought and exciting emotions await those who venture into my words.

  17. BryanThomasS

    WHY DO YOU WRITE? Love to hear others’ answers but here’s mine: I write because I can’t NOT write. It’s a compulsion, an addiction. It’s not about money or fame. I write because there’s stuff I need to get out there into the world. I hope people are moved by it. I hope they’re entertained. I hope it makes them think. But I’ll still write regardless, because I don’t have a choice. At least the writers will understand that, I think. It’s a way of processing the world, understanding the meaning of life, making decisions and striving to grow to be a better man. It’s a way of exercising demons, demonstrating better ways and exploring human nature. I write because there’s a voice inside me crying to break free. I write because it’s who I am. That’s why I write.

  18. gobias

    Inspiration comes in a multitude of forms. For me, it’s many times from movies, tv and books. When something moves me, I feel inspired to write. Other times I have felt obligated to present an opinion. Most recently was the shooting in Arvada, CO during The Dark Knight Rises and the pilot of The Newsroom. This event and show captured the zeitgeist of the internet and news. It was an opportunity to express my own opinion via an outlet with hopes for cultural discussion. When writing goes beyond words on a page and becomes something more, that’s my motivation to write.

  19. Natasha McNeely

    I write because I have no choice. It’s a passion and it keeps me sane. I can’t keep all these stories and characters bottled up inside me; I need to show them to the world or else they will never leave me alone. And mostly, I write because it is my dream.

  20. Amanda Helms

    I write because even on the days I hate it, I still love it more than anything else. I write because I want to find out what happens to all the people living in my head. I write because I want to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise. I write to prevent boredom in myself and others. I write because it helps me stay off antidepressants (truly).

    I also write because I fear losing my day job due to layoffs and there aren’t many editorial jobs around. I have hopes that maybe the writing can combine with a part time bakery job or something and keep a roof over my head. But I prefer to think about the first list.

  21. Adwy

    I write because there are so many characters in my head holding their own conversations that it drives me insane to not put it down. Writing is a way to let my characters come alive in words and share their stories, pain, happiness and what drives them.

  22. writingitout

    I write because it’s what I was made to do. It’s why I was put on this Earth. It’s what makes me happy. When I write, it is the only time I know with 100 per-cent certainty that it’s what I should be doing. Nothing in my life makes me more fulfilled. It is a relationship that was meant to be, writing and me. No matter how hard I try to break up with it, I always find myself putting pen to paper. Writing is who I am. I can’t define myself by anything else. I am a writer.

  23. tracelessway

    I write because when I am writing – whether what I am writing is free form, crap, wonderfully crafted prose, a simple telling of the day’s events or some other thing that ends up on the page – I find a fugue state that draws me out of this world and into that world. I find that hole in the page, fall in and become intoxicated by an indulgence that is purely my own.


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